I admit this blog post has been in my ‘drafts’ folder for quite a long time now. I keep going back to it, messing around with it, losing confidence and then leaving it in drafts. But I think it’s important for me to be totally transparent with you guys. I know so many people who don’t really get how ‘blogging for a living’ works and I thought today, I could perhaps bridge that gap a little.
And ya know, thinking about it, blogging as a “career” – despite all the press it gets these days and despite the fact that it’s at times pushed as some kind of ‘get rich/get famous quick’ thing to do – is a bizarre choice to make a living. Most of my non-blogging friends don’t understand it. Acquaintances will cock their head to the side when I tell them what I do and assume I just get a lot of ‘free stuff’ from brands, lamenting, ‘I wish I could get free stuff. Must be nice’ followed by questions about how they might get into blogging so they can get ‘free stuff’ too. (And yes, I’m putting that in quotes for a reason ;))
Now, if there’s one thing I want to make clear in all of this is that I LOVE what I do and I’m forever in awe of the fact that I’m able to do this and support myself in the process. I’m also so incredibly grateful for the support I get from my readers and my fellow bloggers – I am fully aware that without you guys coming to visit me, I couldn’t do what I do. And that, for me, is mind-blowing. However, there are some truths that I think are important for non-bloggers to understand and today I want to address a few of these from my personal perspective. Of course, not all bloggers work the same way – in fact, that’s part of the beauty of it, that everyone is sort of figuring out what’s best for them. So today, I just want to chat about my own experience here. So we’re all clear on that, yes? I love you guys, I appreciate you guys so much and I’m super grateful I get to do what I love for a living. I just want to start with that. Okay, then, let’s talk realities of blogging now!
The time costs of running my blog
A single blog post can take me anywhere between 5-15 hours to create. Creating 2-3 a week is incredibly time-consuming especially when it means waiting for decent natural light (hard to come by at times here in the North West), styling the space, shooting it, editing photos, writing the post (reading and re-reading and correcting the flow and checking for any typos or errors), ensuring it’s SEO-friendly, scheduling it and then creating a newsletter for subscribers with a brief summary of the post. Then after it’s published, I need to promote the post across all my social media channels – this means scheduling the post on Facebook, scheduling tweets on Hootsuite, scheduling pins to Pinterest via Tailwind, choosing images to use on Instagram and scheduling those on Later including whatever hashtags are pertinent at the time and perhaps doing an Instagram story on it and so on.
I also need and want to interact with you guys. So that means responding to comments, answering emails, responding across my social media channels and keeping up with these comments and interactions that are coming through all day and all night from readers around the world. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE IT. It’s so nice to interact with you guys and it makes blogging such an amazing thing to do when I get to chat with you. But of course, this takes time. I’m not complaining about it but it’s something I want to do and feel is only right.
Of course, you may be thinking, ‘Well, this is what you do full-time so you’ve got the time to do these things and, well, you only post a few times a week’ which, of course, is true. But bear in mind that I also have client work alongside my blog so whilst I am working on my own blog, I’ll be researching, sourcing images, writing, editing and communicating with my clients, for whom I create on average about 3-5 posts a week. So that’s around 6-8 blog posts a week when you include the ones I create for Swoon Worthy.
Why I Need to Make Money on My Blog
So shall we talk about the unmentionable? I make money on my blog to support me and to support the projects I do.
Running a website and a business isn’t cheap. My operating costs alone for the blog last year totalled over £8000. This included hiring a designer to help me create my branding and website but also includes costs I have normally on a month-to-month basis. So I’ve got an accountant, website hosting on a virtual private server (which costs more – this is because I have a backlog of more than 6 years of content – it’s a HUGE website) to make sure the site runs smoothly and never gets hacked, the domain name, monthly subscriptions to schedulers, monthly charges for a business bank account, leasing a copy of Adobe Photoshop so I can create nice images, the costs of having a camera, laptop and all the paraphernalia that comes with that.
So let’s get real now… I have to make enough money to cover my operating expenses just to break even, never mind pay my mortgage, make sure the fur babies are fed, pay the utility bills (I’m home all day which means our heating costs are slightly higher despite the fact that I try my best to just layer on the clothing during the coldest months and use my cats as hot water bottles) and have food on our table. Of course, I need to also cover the costs of creating content for you guys. So updating rooms and styling means I’m spending money to do up the house which of course creates content for the blog in kind.
I admit, not all of these things would be absolutely necessary and many bloggers get by just fine using a cloud hosting service (where they share a server with lots of other websites) and I could do my own taxes and not bother scheduling my social media feeds. The unfortunate truth is that I need these ‘helpers’ in my life to create the blog I really want to create. For the quality to remain high, I need the time these things save me and it’s worth every penny for me to have them. The longer I’ve been blogging the more I realise that while they add to my costs, they also help me to create a better work-life balance and assist me in creating more quality content here.
The Ethical Standards I Hold Myself To
My email box is constantly packed with offers of collaborations. This is not a brag, it’s just a fact. An awful lot of them are unpaid, many of them are for product reviews and far too many are from companies who want me to publish their own content on my blog in exchange for a dodgy link buried in there somewhere. I have to weed through all the crappy emails for the odd email from a company I really like and who’s product or service I actually love and want to share.
Now, I have always ALWAYS been picky about who I work with. This is something that’s vitally important to me and something I will never change. I’m not going to promote a product just because someone has paid me. I have to get excited by it. I have to think the company is pretty great or their products are awesome. I don’t go into a collaboration lightly.
The trust I have from you guys is something I value above absolutely everything else and damaging that trust hurts both of us. I can’t express enough how much I have to feel like a brand is the right fit for what I do.
This means that I will turn down many many more collaborations – some which are incredibly lucrative – than I accept because I don’t want to damage that trust. It has to feel right. If it doesn’t, I say no, simple as that.
But when I do say yes, I want it to be as good of a post as any other you’ll see here. In fact, I often hope it’s even better. With the help of a brand, there are times when I can get creative, think outside the box, have the chance to share something I might not otherwise get the chance to do.
Why I Accept Sponsored Posts
So let’s start with the big one. I limit how many sponsored opportunities I take a month. I accept no more than 3 a month. In the last year, I had one sponsored post in January, one in February, one in March and two in April. If you look at that in terms of a percentage, I have published 50 blog posts so far this year and of those, 5 of them were collaborations. Of those 5 posts, only 3 were actually paid, the other 2 were product reviews (where I don’t get any cash, I just get to keep the product).
So including both review and sponsored, that’s 10% of my posts. I think I’m doing okay with that one because I don’t want to fill my blog with sponsored content. Again, this is just how I work and I don’t begrudge other bloggers taking more than that.
Why I Have Display Ads on My Site
Now, here’s something I wanted to chat with you about specifically because you probably have noticed there’s been a change in my display advertising on the blog over the last few months. I now have ‘in-content’ display ads that pop up between the text and I also have a display ad in the footer of my blog. I realise it’s probably annoying to have to scroll past the adverts or click the little ‘x’ at the bottom of the screen to get rid of it.
But here’s the thing. I make money when people do click on those adverts – this is just how this kind of advertising works. And making money from those display ads is one way I’m able to support myself and support my blog. Only accepting a very limited amount of sponsored blog posts means I have to make money in other ways. I make enough income on those ads to mean that I don’t have to accept sponsored content that I don’t want to accept and I can continue to be picky about what gets coverage on Swoon Worthy. While I completely understand it’s not ideal, it gives me more freedom to create content that I want to create here.
Why Nothing is Really Free
So let’s go back to the whole ‘must be nice to get lots of free stuff’ comments that I often get in my personal life as well as from readers. Ya know, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t nice to have companies send me stuff to make my house prettier. It’s one of the big perks of being a blogger and it’s amazing to have the support of brands who want to see their items in my home. It’s an incredible accolade and of course, it saves me money as well.
But here’s the truth of the situation. Nothing is free. They aren’t sending me stuff out of the goodness of their hearts because they think I’m just swell. They are sending it to me because they are expecting to see a return on that investment. They want me to show off their wares in the best possible light, they want me to take my time to style and share it with you guys and there’s an additional pressure when you know some corporate types are waiting and watching to see what you do. These kinds of posts will normally take me longer because I’m so keen to get things right and to not disappoint the brands that are providing products to me.
So while it may look like I’m getting lots of free stuff, throwing it into a space and taking a few shots, the reality is that I’ve probably spent many many hours in communication with the brand or PR agency, discussing concepts, arranging delivery, deciding on a schedule, discussing what will be shown and how. And then, of course, it’s styling it and shooting it, writing up the post, sometimes sending them previews of how the items look. And then it’s all about what happens after the blog post goes live in terms of promotion, sometimes sending stats on the post performance and communicating with the brand to make sure they were happy with the outcome.
There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes of every ‘free’ thing you see on Swoon Worthy and while it’s lovely and I appreciate these things, they aren’t really free – it’s always reciprocal so I am, in fact, working for these items.
I Never Switch Off – Ever.
There are so many aspects of blogging that I really do truly love. But if there’s one thing that I wish I could balance much better (I’m working on it!) is that I have no idea how to completely switch off. I am always on my phone, I’m always thinking about my blog or my social channels and I’m always thinking about content. I’m also always worried about things like the latest algorithm changes to all the major platforms like Instagram or Pinterest or Facebook. I’m trying to keep up with it all, stay active on everything all the time. And I just never ever switch off. I’m on my phone pretty much all the time and if I’m not on my phone, I’m on the laptop.
I take around 2 weeks completely off every year. One week in the summer and one week over the Christmas break and this includes taking time off not just from my blog but also from client work. When I used to work full time, I used to get paid holiday. Of course, as a freelancer, I don’t get this anymore. So if I’m not working, I’m not making any money. You can understand why I can’t just take 4 weeks off a year like I used to! I kind of miss it!
How Important Feedback from You Is
Sometimes when you blog, you sort of feel like you are talking into a void. If there’s no feedback from anyone, you just don’t know whether people actually like what you’re doing or whether the content you are creating is actually resonating with those who are visiting your blog. This is why comments – whether here on the blog or on social media or even via email – are so so vitally important. I know everyone is busy and I know how time-consuming it can be to leave comments or respond on social media even if you thought something was great.
But my goodness, this kind of feedback is SO important to me because it lets me know that yes, you got something out of the post or that you enjoyed it or that you learned something. So please, please continue to share the content or leave a little comment or click like on Facebook or the little heart on Instagram or retweet it on Twitter. It really does mean the world to me when you do because that means then that I’ll continue to create content like that – blog posts that you really love and get something from. It also tells Facebook and Instagram that you want to see my stuff. The algorithms work on interactions – so the more your interact, the less chance of missing something in the future.
I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who’s gotten through this monster of a post. I hope it’s shined a little light on how things work here behind the scenes at Swoon Worthy and how much I appreciate you guys. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this and I feel incredibly lucky that I get to have this little space on the internet where I get to share my random thoughts with you. Is it always perfect? Well, nothing ever is but it’s still pretty freaking great most of the time. Am I constantly working on making this a better place? Absolutely and with your feedback, I can continue to do that.
So I’d love to know if anything I said surprised you or if you learned anything new today. Perhaps you are a blogger yourself and there’s something you wish your readers knew about blogging that you’ve never discussed? I’d love to hear from you!